Derek MacKay was at the Dalzell Works in where he learned the Liberty Steel-owned mill is now the only fully UK-owned large producer of plate steel, used for demanding applications such as large physical structures, ship bodies, undersea oil pipes, bulldozers and wind towers.
Managing director Gordon MacRae took Mr Mackay on a tour of the plant to meet workers and explain the investment and progress that is being made there.
He said: “With the skill and determination of the workforce at Dalzell, we’ve begun to make real inroads into this market. We’re already reclaiming lost market share and we have big ambitions for future growth, not only at home but in key export markets also.”
He disclosed that the plant has just secured two substantial new contracts and is on target to produce more than 120,000 tonnes of plate this year. This figure is set to rise by at least another 25 per cent next year, as the plant’s expansion plan moves into its next phase.
As part of the Group’s value-added business model a significant amount of steel from Dalzell will be used by other Liberty plants in Scotland and England to make products such as wind towers and oil pipelines.
In addition to reclaiming a large share of the UK plate market, Dalzell also aims to export to markets such as Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland.
Mr MacRae added: “Making a comeback after closure was always going to be a big challenge but we are now seeing real progress. We’re expanding our product range and customer base and we firmly believe that Scotland is now leading the fightback for a share of the UK market for this toughest of steels.”
Following the visit Mr MacKay said: “The Scottish Government are committed to ensuring our steel sector has a sustainable future, building on the long and proud heritage of steelwork in Scotland.
“We are committed to doing as much as we can to increase the industry’s ability to compete in global markets, which will help bring new opportunities to Scotland’s economy.”